Live Reviews

This show was part of the The Music Network tour featuring, Julie Fowlis, Kris Drever, Pádraig Rynne, Aoife Ní Bhriain. Music Network is an organisation that organises nationwide tours of Ireland with musicians that they invite over especially (trad, folk, world and classical). Often they bring groups of musicians together specifically to get them to collaborate. In their programme they liken it to matchmaking.

I wonder whether it is skillful choices or luck as to whether these unique partnerships work out. I have been to quite a few Music Network concerts over the years and the groupings are nearly always good, sometimes great, but it can also happen that individually brilliant musicians actually are not that suited to sharing the stage.

This criticism could not at all be fired at tonight's line up, which combined the talents of Scots Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, singer/songwriter Kris Drever from Orkney, young concertina player extraordinaire Pádraig Rynne and Dublin violinist Aoife Ní Bhriain.

The quartet met initially in Inverness to get to know each other and develop a repertoire for this nine date tour. My options were either going to the second show, in the Sugar Club, a lovely venue a stone's throw from where I live, or to go to the last show at the Pavilion, a sympathetic theatre with nonetheless terribly cramped seating out in Dún Laoghaire. I went for the latter, since trad collaborations do get better with time.

Julie Fowlis was my main reason for going and once the musicians took the stage I recognised Pádraig Rynne from Triad (with Dónal Lunny and Sylvain Barou).  Kris Drever I have seen him many times as he tends to guest with musicians I like. Aoife Ní Bhriain was the surprise of the night. She plays both traditional and classical violin and as per the programme she has played with many renowned orchestras and won numerous competitions.

Aoife's solo slot got the biggest cheer of the night. She talked about a project she has been involved in featuring songs collected by a Canon Goodman from Dingle. This man compiled a manuscript collection of traditional tunes that is now kept at Trinity College. These are often very well-known songs, that have been preserved in earlier, often slightly different versions. They played a variant of 'The dawning of the day'.

Both Kris Drever and Pádraig Rynne are musicians known to work with loops and other trickery, but for this show these gadgets were left out. Pádraig impressed with his virtuoso concertina playing, including some tunes he composed himself, with his skillful accompaniments and also his sense of humour. I liked Kris' guitar playing. 'Capernaum' (“Edinburgh, Edinburgh”) was his standout song. Julie Fowlis sang backing vocals to some of Kris' songs. It is curious to hear Julie sing in English, given that I have many CDs with her singing exclusively in Gaelic.

Julie's songs were fabulous. She has a beautiful, crystal clear voice and nice stories to go with her songs. She played tin whistle and the shruti box; a smaller, more portable type of harmonium, which she travels with so as to have more space for shoes in her suitcase, she said! Though its drone is similar to that of the pipes, it is actually an Indian instrument. Highlights of Julie's performances were a two part song about seals and the encore, which was some of the traditional mouth music that she is most famous for.

All in all a fantastic night of music. There were signs saying that the performance would be recorded. I wonder whether this is just for the Pavilion's archives or with a view of making this available to the public?



The annual Bristol Xmas gig notwithstanding, this is the first live dates, and tour from the Aeroplanes for what seems like forever, and thankfully they made a pit stop up North in Sheffield.

Sheffield is not unknown to Gerard Langley, as he and Wojtek went and met at Uni here a few decades earlier, and the decent turnout in the back room of the Leadmill were anticipating a night of classic tunes, and tracks from recently released new album Welcome, Stranger!

The night began with the customary spine tingling intro of aeroplanes passing overhead, before the band kicked things off with new track Dead Tree, Dead Tree! A surefire future live favourite and almost immediately the audience is swaying along.

It’s at this point that I realise that I’m here watching the Aeroplanes on a last, a tour, and they are playing as tight and rehearsed than I’ve seen for years and years, and what a joy that is. Wojtek is doing his thing, both on and off the stage, and he’s getting a lot of attention from the first timers in the crowd, who are mainly here with the your girl who opened the night.

The set is a mix of old favourites, with some surprises such as Missy Lane, which I’m not sure I’ve heard live before, and the wonderful And Stones, sounding as vibrant as it ever has, but the main message of the evening is that this is the Aeroplanes mk plenty, and this mix of young and not so young, talented musicians are elevating the band to new heights.

It’s clear the band are really enjoying themselves and after new album favourite Here Is The Heart of All Wind Things, it’s time for the main set to come to a close, and we all know what’s to come from the encores...

Mixed in with old live favourite Fun, and new gorgeous album closer Poetland, are 2 covers. Dylan’s I Wanna Be Your Lover, and the epic, iconic Tom Verlaine cover Breakin’ In My Heart. Like Jacket Hangs, an (almost) ever present in the set. The band are going nuts on stage - Mike and Bec are playing guitars on 2 platforms stage left and right, Wojtek is on and off the stage like a whirling dervish, while the rest of the band are shuffling restlessly around each other back on stage. The track, and the night ends with the last chord being played by Mike as he launches himself off the bass drum.

Exhilarating, exciting, refreshing, and almost tear inducing to this long time fan. The Aeroplanes are back, back, back, bigger bolder and brighter than ever, with some killer tunes that sit alongside their back catalogue as if they were recorded 20 years ago. With the promise of another album and tour later in 2017, this is going to be some year to be an Aeroplanes fan.



Band Website

A night of quality hard rock was on the agenda at Manchester Academy 2 with the legendary Glenn Hughes touring in support of last years well received, and really rather fabulous album Resonate. His first solo album in 8 years.

The support band, maybe chosen because they were fellow midlanders, were the Walsall based Stone Broken. Yes, they’ve got the riffs, the looks and they can play, but most importantly they’ve got the tunes. This is a young new band, who clearly have a great rapport with their audience and genuinely happy to be doing what they do. Check out debut album All In Time.

So onto the main event, and on strode the mid 60’s but looking about 40, Glenn Hughes. Every inch the rock star - shades, shaggy hair and pearly white teeth, bowed to his adoring fans and launched into Flow from latest album Resonate. The temperature and adrenaline was turned up a notch, especially when running straight into Muscle & Blood from his collaborative album with Pat Thrall, and the battered old bass he had round his neck was put through it’s paces.

As this was my first live Glenn Hughes gig, firstly I wasn’t sure what to expect from the setlist, and secondly from the man himself in terms of his relationship with the fans. Was this going to be a trip down memory lane in homage to his stints in Trapeze and Purple, or would it be a more forward looking contemporary set ? The answer I’m pleased to say was a happy mix of both. And as for his chat and messages to the fans, I’m not sure I’ve witnessed a more warm, human and downright “normal” approach to band/audience interaction. The main message of the night (even from Stone Broken too) was that we should all celebrate life and love, and we only get one chance at this game, so make the most of it. It was genuinely heartwarming when Hughes explained he had written most of Resonate while recouperating from a double knee transplant, and that tomorrow he was back to his mothers hospital bed as she’s rather unwell. There was a genuine feeling of we’re all in this together, and there was no barrier between band and audience....Hughes exclaiming at one point that he had come tonight to see us...

Deep Purple song Getting Tighter was when the fabulous Mellotron was put through its paces for the first time by Jay Boe, and tributes were paid to lost masters of the machine Jon Lord and Keith Emerson. God bless you both.

The only Trapeze song of the night was the swirling, brooding Medusa, a song I admit to not knowing, however clearly a precursor to what was to come with Purple.

Much to my delight was the Black Country Communion song One Last Soul, and even better news was that BCC4 is on the horizon and due for an Autumn release. Black County from the same band closed the main set, and this black country reviewer was wondering why I hadn’t seen Mr Hughes live before.

Deep Purple favourite Burn closed the night, which obviously bought the house down and also showcased that despite the inevitable passing of years, Hughes’ voice is as incredible as the hell does he hit those high notes ?

What a great night...what an entertaining night. This was surely a lesson to any aspiring new rock bands of how to behave on stage, keeping the audience engaged throughout, and showing some personality coming through. Obviously it helps to have an amazing back catalogue to draw on, and magnificent musicians backing you, but this was a masterclass in stage craft.



A cult band and an iconic venue that’s soon to could any music fan resist?

So we travelled deep into the beating heart of Harlow and into in the car park of this humble, welcoming venue as we reflected on it’s loss to the local music community, so that developers can build 69 new flats. Its maybe not the most beautiful place, but what a history, all the bands who played here, all the careers spawned and new dreams created. Bar staff and security are friendly, the sound is great, sightlines are good and there is space to watch standing or, sit as you wish.

Seems appropriate that the Blue Aeroplanes are almost the last act to play here (that honour goes to Eddie and the Hot Rods and venerable locals the Newtown Neurotics). Like the Square itself, they seem the product of another, happier time (this was Trump inauguration day). Their original blend of art rock, pop, poetry and performance influenced bands like Radiohead. They are having a resurgence, with excellent new album Welcome, Stranger (reviewed elsewhere on this site by Keith) getting rave reviews, and a big tour winning them new fans.

Their set started with a fanfare, then straight into standout track from the new LP, Dead Tree! Dead Tree! There are three original members, Gerard the poet/singer, John the drummer, and Wojtek, who doesnt play anything but does energetic dances to every song. It is fair to say these 3 are not as young they used to be, but somehow this makes them more distinguished and measured in their performance, especially Gerard, and even Wojtek...on the 2 past occasions I saw them I found his dances irritating, but now I am totally impressed by his energy.

The other 4 band members all play guitars, and 3 of them sing a song each. ..they seem like good friends having a great time, rocking out at the end of even the most poetic numbers. It is certainly Gerard who holds it all together, with his stage presence and understated vocals. Twice he makes the point that this is not "an exercise in nostalgia", and many of the best songs are from the new album...'Nothing will ever happen in the Future', 'Elvis Festival' and 'Here is the Heart of All Wild Things' were my favourites, standing up to the classics they played like 'Jacket Hangs'.

I found it quite endearing that he carried a big book of lyrics lest he forgot any, and was most impressed by his ‘shades roadie’ who swapped his glasses around for him after a few numbers. They ended the first of two encores with the dedicated to Nobel prize winner Mr Dylan, followed by Poetland, which closes the new album, about where Bob might now live.

A special mention for support Blazing Zoos. A self styled country(not Americana) band from London, they had a great stage presence, with many songs linked to the sports of his native Australia by main man Andrew, and one about a terrible festival they once played. He had a great interaction with the crowd, and much banter with bassist Lara, whose fans included her 7 month old son in the crowd. After their slot Lara kindly introduced me to their charming drummer Gen...who turns out to be from Jesus Jones! He gave me not just an autograph for a friend who is a big fan, but added his own blood from a minor drumming wound to his knuckles. I bet that is worth something on ebay!

Kevin Hand

Mental note for the future: Remember that folk fans arrive early.

It was the opportunity to see Seth Lakeman tour 'Ballads of the Broken Few' that had me in Norwich, a city I had not visited before. I spent the day taking in the sights and thought I was still in good time, arriving at Norwich Open half an hour before doors open. To my surprise there was already an enormous queue, stretching around a corner and way down the road alongside the venue. Seth Lakeman is a popular performer. Perhaps it was also to do with the free seating. Going solo to gigs has its advantages though and I still found a free seat in the third row.

Seth Lakeman's most recent album is a collaboration with Wildwood Kin, a folk trio from Exeter. That album is a great artistic success in my view. This tour continues the collaboration, with Wildwood Kin also playing a support set.

Wildwood Kin are a trio, however one of the girls was out sick, so sisters, Beth and Emillie Key performed as a duo. It was nice, but I reckon the absence of Meghann Loney was felt. The vocals sounded thin at times, and the sisters were a bit shy and giggly, admitting that Meghann normally does the talking. On the plus side, their songs are strong and I particularly liked the parts where Emillie took up the electric guitar. They finished with a new song, which was especially good and no doubt will sound even better with the band complete.

I have seen Seth Lakeman perform in different set ups over the years (thought he was great solo actually), and his current band is his best yet. The band are Full English collaborator Ben Nicholls on standing bass and concertina, multi instrumentalist Jack Rutter, and super enthusiastic Irish drummer/bodhrán player Cormac Byrne, who played the cajón a lot and hit cymbals with his bare hands! The Wildwood Kin girls joined for the songs off the last album and also provided backing vocals on some of the older work.

It was a very balanced set, encompassing all parts of Seth's solo career. He went right back to 'Freedom fields' for 'Take no Rogues' and included one of his Full English contributions, 'Stand by your Guns'. The Norwich Open is in a former bank building and Seth commented that it felt strange playing 'Poor Man's Heaven' there. 'Portrait of my wife', played acoustically, was a standout moment.

For the 'Ballads of the broken few' songs the band left the stage, and these were performed by Seth and the girls, mostly standing around one microphone. For these songs in particular the theatre setting with the respectfully quiet audience worked well. In my review of the album a while back I already wrote that Seth is to be applauded for continuing to find new ways to present his folk songs. It is a genre in which some musicians could be accused of releasing more of the same with each new album. Seth's hook-up with Wildwood Kin was a very good move.

While the whole show was worthwhile, it was really the last quarter of it that brought things to a higher level. Bruce Springsteen has talked about the "home stretch", when everyone is up on their feet, the biggest hits come out and you clap until your hands are sore. Whilst I would not compare Seth to Bruce, the last six or so songs of his set had that vibe. I suddenly wished I was wearing Wellingtons and standing in a muddy field. 'Lady of the Sea' and 'Kitty Jay' are two extraordinary songs that never fail to make an impact. For 'Lady...' a kind of green glitterball was switched on, creating a rather magical atmosphere. 'Kitty Jay' is a monster of a song. You have to experience it live to know what I am talking about. I get goosebumps every time.

Seth used the word hoedown to describe one of the songs he played on the home stretch. It was also in these songs that Seth the fiddler really got a chance to shine. The audience got up on their feet, which was a relief after being confined to upper-body-chair-dancing. When the show finished my neighbour said, "Beats staying at home watching the telly, innit?" Absolutely.
All in all a fabulous show. Am equally looking forward however to the opportunity to experience this in a field in the summer. Festival bookers, take note!


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